McIntosh made themselves at home on the road, taking both halves of a doubleheader from the Starr’s Mill Panthers in the first edition of the Battle of the Bubble Saturday evening.
The Lady Chiefs are hitting their stride as new leaders step up early in the season. The night before, they were down 33-11 in the third quarter to their nemesis from Forest Park, but McIntosh buckled down and went on a 33-4 run to claim a 44-37 victory. Now they have a momentum-building win against a talented rival in their back pocket.
“I’m really, really proud. Our program is in place, and that doesn’t change, but the players’ roles change,” said McIntosh coach David Dowse. “They’re buying into it, and they’re playing together as a team. This is definitely the best we’ve played yet as far as sharing the basketball, moving the basketball, playing good team defense, and communicating.”
McIntosh rode the sharp-shooting of Savannah Soles to victory. Soles was red-hot from the start, putting up 15 first-half points en route to 27 for the game. She was an unbelievable 8-of-13 on three-pointers.
“It was awesome. It was fun playing out there with my teammates. I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Soles, who made a big splash in her first Battle of the Bubble after missing last season due to injury. “It’s my first Starr’s Mill rivalry game, so it was definitely a good first one for me.”
It wasn’t all Soles who powered the Chiefs attack. Samantha Coffey poured in 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from three, along with four rebounds. DeLayne Rotolo filled in at point guard and filled up the stat sheet with six points, six assists, and five rebounds. Maddie Emmett and Katie Habicht each added six rebounds.
“What I like about our team is they’re unselfish,” praised Dowse. “It could be Savannah tonight and it could be anyone the next game. Scoring is not their role right now, but eventually it will be.”
As impressive as the offensive effort was, it was the play of the defense that really stood out. The Chiefs held Starr’s Mill, and their dynamic duo of Riley Clark and Alli Jones, to half of their season average for points.
“They’re two really, really good players. We know it and they know it,” said Dowse. “Part of the game plan is to address that and to try to identify their strengths and weaknesses and try to come up with a plan. The kids executed it very well.”
The plan was put into play to success from the start. Soles and Coffey helped pile up a 17-8 first quarter lead, Soles sinking four from long range and Coffey adding one. Riley Clark kept the Panthers in it with her own bomb and a steal and layup.
The Panthers kept pounding the ball in the paint in the second quarter with Kelly Kozusko posing a matchup problem. Alli Jones added a running floater to pull within 17-12 before the Chiefs heated back up. Soles and Coffey each hit from deep to push the margin to 23-16 at the half.
Jones scored five straight points to cut into the gap out of the break, but Soles and Coffey would not let up. Soles notched a four-point play and followed it up with a trey. Coffey put up her own, then Soles added one more for a 40-25 lead heading into the final frame.
Starr’s Mill got as close as they would get down the stretch with another Clark three. Maddie Emmett dished to Kennedi Miller for a bucket, then sank a jumper to ice the 50-28 victory.
Starr’s MIll gave the highly-touted Chiefs all they could handle for a half of the boys game. Zach Pina was electric running the point, creating for his teammates off the dribble and sinking a number of big shots himself.
The second quarter was when they shined the brightest, slicing their deficit to just five points. Pina hit a pair of threes in the frame, and Satchel Goodrich fed Nick Karli for a bucket. Nate Allison completed a three-point play, and Kyle Evert dished to James Harris for the half’s final points and a 37-32 margin.
“It’s always hard fought. Hats off to Starr’s Mill, they played hard all the way through,” praised McIntosh coach Jason Eisele. “It was a roller coaster a little bit. We came out and had a strong first quarter, they battled back in the second quarter and made it tight at halftime, then we came out hitting on all cylinders in the third quarter and opened the game up.”
The Chiefs took all their punches and held steady till they could deal a knockout blow. Coming out of halftime, McIntosh turned up the heat to scalding hot. Rather than settling for threes, they used muscle in the paint to open it up for the shooters around the perimeter. Washington and Shaw hit from deep, and Lowery dominated in the paint, including a pair of thunderous dunks, as they outscored the Panthers 28-8 in the frame to grab a commanding 65-40 lead.
“I thought in the second quarter we became one-dimensional. We had to get back to doing what we do,” said Eisele. “I was proud of my guys for getting back to the basics and not letting the environment get them playing out of their heads. I thought we came back and played a little more balanced in the second half.”
Ulysses Brown started the fourth with a three for the Chiefs, then Lyons added a pair of his own.
Starr’s Mill kept charging, with Pina and Jack Van Nimwegen each adding buckets. Nate Allison saved a ball from going out of bounds, flipping it back to Chase Sands for two, and James Harris came through with a three-point play.
McIntosh got their reserves plenty of minutes down the stretch, Brendon Rowan with a running outback and Cole Guenther sinking a three for the final points in the 80-66 victory.
The Chiefs got big contributions throughout their starting five. Jordan Lyons led the way with 19 points and six assists. Will Washington scored 17 points with 11 assists. Dishon Lowery tallied 17 points and eight rebounds. Chase Walter posted eight points, most of them on dunks, and eight boards. Braxton Shaw added eight points.
Zach Pina paced the Panthers with a game-high 24 points, followed by James Harris with 12, and Nate Allison with 10.
The two schools will meet on McIntosh’s court January 22.
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